As someone passionately active in missions (vvmi.org), I am still NOT on the frontlines. I experience the joys of being involved and seeing God at work, but I do not yet personally suffer any of the costs of frontier missions. John Piper explains the COSTS and the BLESSINGS of frontier missions, in his sermon, “I am Sending You Out as Sheep in the Midst of Wolves”:
Six Costs of Frontier Missions
This text powerfully speaks for itself. So let me, without too much comment, focus our attention on six costs and ten blessings of being on the frontline of frontier missions. These difficulties are the kind of thing we may expect today even if in God’s forbearance we may be spared some of them. First the costs.
1. The cost of being arrested by authorities. Verses 16-18: “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles.”
2. The cost of family betrayal. Verse 21: “Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death.” This is almost unbelievable: Fathers and children will so be so opposed to the Christian faith, they will want each other dead rather than believing.
3. The cost of being hated by all. Verse 22: “You will be hated by all for my name’s sake.” Be careful that you don’t elevate friendship evangelism to the point where this text makes evangelism impossible. You will be hated by all does not mean: You can’t do evangelism.
4. The cost of being persecuted and driven out of town.Verse 23: “When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next.”
5. The cost of being maligned. Verse 25b: “If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.” Jesus died in our place so that we might escape the wrath of God, not the wrath of man. He was called to suffer for the sake of propitiation; we are called to suffer for the sake of propagation.
6. The cost of being killed. Verse 28: “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” So they can kill the body. And sometimes they do. Don’t ever elevate safety in missions to the point where you assume that if one of our missionaries is killed we have made a mistake. Jesus said plainly in Luke 21:16, “Some of you they will put to death.”
For two thousand years, thousands of missionaries—unnamed people of whom the world is not worthy—have counted this cost and put their lives at risk to reach the lost with the only message of salvation in the world. And the reason they could do this is because the blessings so outweigh the costs.
Ten Blessings of Frontier Missions
May the Lord make these ten blessings that I am about to name overcome all your fears and give you a passion to know him like this.
1. The blessing of being sent by Christ. Verse 16: “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” “I am sending you out.” It is deeply satisfying thing to be sent by the living Christ into his work.
2. The blessing of being given words by the Spirit of God.Verses 19-20: “When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” What a wonderful thing it is to sense the presence and power of the Spirit in your life, giving you the words you need.
3. The blessing of experiencing God’s fatherly care. Verse 20b: “For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” Jesus makes explicit that the one caring for you is your Father in heaven. You may have to leave father and mother to be a missionary. But you will always have a Father who cares for you.
4. The blessing of salvation at the end of it all. Verse 22b: “But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” When all the costs have been paid, we will have the great end of salvation. We will be raised from the dead with no sorrow or pain or sin, and we will see Christ and enter in to his joy and hear the words, in spite of all our imperfections, “Well done.”
5. The blessing of knowing that the Son of Man is coming in judgment and mercy. Verse 23b: “You will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.” This was a great encouragement to those persecuted disciples. Jesus comes at just the right time in historical judgments and deliverances, and he will come at the last day and vindicate all his people.
6. The blessing of belonging to Jesus’ household. Verse 25b: “If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.” Whatever rejection we may experience, Jesus wants us to be sure we are ever aware: This rejection is a sign that you are mine. You are part of my household.
7. The blessing of knowing that the truth will triumph. Verse 26: “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.” Nothing is hidden that will not be known. For a season in this world, people will mock your proclamation of the truth. They will say, “What is truth!” But know this, and hold fast to this blessing: The truth will be known. Your proclamation will be vindicated. “Nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.” Count on it. What is scoffed at now will be written across the sky someday. And one minute of that vindication before all your enemies will make every act of patient endurance worthwhile.
8. The blessing of having an immortal soul. “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” The soul of the Christian is indestructible. “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24). We have already passed from death to life. Henry Martyn, the missionary to Persia, said that he was immortal untilhis work on earth was done. True. And he would have also agreed that in the fuller sense: You are immortal after your work on earth is done. That is Jesus’ point here.
9. The blessing of having a heavenly Father who sovereignly rules the smallest details of life. Verse 29: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.” Jesus mentions the fall of a sparrow to the ground because nothing seemed more insignificant than that. Yet God, your Father, oversees that and governs that. So you may always know that your Father, who loves you as his precious child, oversees and governs every detail of your life.
10. The blessing of being valued by God. Verse 31: “Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” God does not despise his children. He values his children. For two reasons: One is that in union with Jesus Christ all of his perfection is imputed to us. The other is that by the Spirit, we are being changed from one degree of glory to the next, and God loves the sanctifying work of his own hands. He delights in what we are becoming.